The year-long farmer agitation against the Centre’s three now-repealed agriculture laws during 2020-21 has boosted the morale of farmer groups in Haryana, who now regularly hold protests on various issues concerning their rights or interests forcing the authorities to redress their grievances.
Some recent examples in this regard from different parts of Haryana include farmers’ over two-month-long dharna for compensation for their damaged crops, their protests against the installation of high tension electricity towers in their fields without adequate compensation, and their campaign against the central government’s Agnipath scheme for short-term recruitment of soldiers in armed forces.
The Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU)’s leader Rakesh Bains says: “The victory of farmers against three farm laws has given them hopes that they can win if they are ready to struggle for long. It has inspired them to be organised. That’s why more units of farmer outfits have come up at the village level. The organisational activities have given them a chance to understand the issues of farmers and government policies on agriculture.”
Recently, the farmer bodies extended their support to the residents of Khedar village in Hisar district, who were campaigning for the last three months for securing the sale rights of the fly ash generated after burning coal at the Rajiv Gandhi Thermal Power Plant there. In the clashes between the agitators and policemen on July 8, a farmer Dharampal lost his life. Senior farmer leaders, Rakesh Tikait and Gurnam Singh Chaduni, reached there to support the agitators. Finally, the protesters and the administration succeeded in reaching a consensus to resolve the standoff.
Farmer leader Suresh Koth, who participated in the Khedar villagers’ talks with the government officials, said the administration accepted their several demands. After their meeting, Hisar DC (deputy commissioner) Priyanka Soni also said: “We reached a consensus on almost all issues.”
There have been recent cases in Haryana of farmer bodies forming a joint coordination committee at the local level to launch an agitation whenever any issue concerning them crops up. At Balsamand village in Hisar district, farmers sat on a dharna for 64 days. The local farmer organisation, the Sanyukta Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, says the administration has agreed to compensate them for the damages to their kharif crops (2020) at the rate of Rs 6,500 per acre.
The Balsamand farmers held protest even when the temperature soared to 50 degrees Celsius. The villagers arranged for “larger” for the protesters. During their campaign, they even sat on dharna at the Balsamand police post. On Friday, they postponed their protest for a month after getting an assurance from the authorities that the compensation amount would be deposited in their accounts within a week. Earlier, farmers staged a protest for several days at the tehsil office in Kheri Chopta village in the same district over a similar demand.
In May, farmers of Karnal’s Bandrala village filled the pits dug up in their fields for setting up high-tension power transmission towers and lines. They demanded “adequate compensation” in lieu of installation of these towers in their fields even as the authorities said they were ready to compensate them as per the existing government policy.
In the last week of June, a group of youths and farmers embarked on a 60-km foot march from a Bhiwani village to a Hisar village to express their resentment against the Agnipath scheme.
Farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni had then alleged: “The youths from the family of farmers and labourers used to get regular jobs in the armed forces. But now this opportunity is also being snatched from them. We feel that this is an attempt to provide trained jawans to two top corporates of the country.”
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, however, said that Agnipath recruits Agniveers serving the country under the scheme will be taken care of in terms of their employment following their 4-year stint with the armed forces, adding that he has directed various departments to start drawing up plans for the same. He said, “As many as 75 per cent of Agniveers employed under the Agnipath scheme who come back with experience, training and ideas after serving four years in the Army will be given priority in jobs by the Central government. Haryana, too, will provide them adequate job opportunities.”
The farmer groups in the state are now gearing up to launch an agitation against the process of restoration of “illegally-sold shamlat deh (common land)” to the gram panchayats in the wake of the April 7 Supreme Court judgment. In a letter to all DCs on June 21, the state government asked them to implement the apex court’s order pertaining to vesting of “shamlat deh and jumla mushtarka malkan” in the panchayats and municipal bodies.
On this issue, farmers held a panchayat in Kurukshetra on Thursday. Addressing the panchayat, Chaduni said: “The notices are being given to farmers to cancel old land mutations which has spread anger among them. This land may be given to the companies of big capitalists for agricultural purposes. To express our resentment, protests will be organised at tehsil level on July 25. If the government does not pay heed to our demands even after that, a big agitation will be launched in August.”